In her brilliant 2015 novel, Department of Speculation, Jenny Offill examined a marriage in crisis through short, fragmented chapters filled with wry observations about the minutiae of parenthood. In her latest book, Weather, Offill applies this same framing to a more existential problem: climate change. The narrator, Lizzie, grows increasingly obsessed with our impending doom, and it invades every aspect of her life. Her academic mentor, who specializes in climate change, blithely tells Lizzie, “Of course, the world continues to end,” before saying she needs to “get off the phone to water her garden.” When Lizzie and her brother confront a driver who nearly runs them over, the driver shoots back, “You and your precious lives.” The stresses of daily life—babies who won’t nap, backpacks that need to be packed for school, toys lovingly nicknamed “slobber frogs” that need to be tossed to family dogs—mix with larger concerns about the planet. In these relatable, taut anecdotes, Offill perfectly captures the particular anxiety of facing the destruction of the world as we know it.
The 100 Must-Read Books of 2020
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